March 2018

Policeman jailed after downloading indecent images of children

A sexual offences liaison officer who found a rape victim in his care “attractive” has been jailed after he hacked into her Facebook account and downloaded pictures of her as a child.

Sussex Police constable Martin Harris used the password the woman gave police to help investigate her attack without her permission and sent himself pictures of her, including one of her aged 13 in school uniform.

The 37-year-old, who worked in the safeguarding and investigation unit at Brighton police station, was jailed for two years at Hove Crown Court on Friday after pleading guilty to misconduct in public office, downloading and making indecent images of children.

Harris, of Saltdean, East Sussex, also saved pictures of other victims he met during his work and those of female colleagues, the court heard.

He even took secret snaps of schoolgirls while commuting to work by bus and photographed a woman through a door while she was in the bath.

Judge Christine Henson, sentencing, said he had an “established” and “entrenched sexual addiction” and accessed information for “personal sexual gratification” in a “gross breach of trust”.

She added: “You intentionally put yourself in this role to gain access to complainants.”

Harris, dressed in a grey suit, white shirt and blue patterned tie, sat in the dock and stared in front of him as he was handed his sentence.

He joined Sussex Police in 2002 and volunteered as a sexual offences liaison officer for 10 years before applying for the role between 2014 and 2015.

The father, who has two young children, worked with vulnerable victims of serious sexual offences and child abuse.

He was trained to look after them and be their point of contact during police investigations, prosecutor Rachel Beckett said.

He was reported to the force’s professional standards department after two police constables discovered graphic messages on his work phone which he had left in a pool police car on March 31 last year.

On April 3, he escorted a rape victim to the Saturn sexual abuse support centre in Crawley, West Sussex.

She had reported the attack the day before and handed over personal information including account passwords to assist with the investigation.

Not long after taking her to the centre he signed into her Facebook account and a day later emailed himself pictures of her.

She contacted him after receiving a notification that someone had accessed her account because she worried it was her rapist.

But he assured her it would have been a police officer involved in the investigation.

During the course of the professional standards probe, it emerged he paid a prostitute £150 for sex at the Ibis hotel in Brighton during his shift, set up adverts selling himself for sex on Craigslist for up to £30, and met people while he was on duty using a work car.

He doctored pictures taken from the account of a childhood love interest so they became more graphic and edited them to show him having sex with her.

When he was arrested in May, naked pictures of children as young as six and searches for graphic websites were also discovered.

At interview he told officers he found the rape victim “attractive” and “liked the idea of seeing something you shouldn’t be seeing”.

He said he got a “thrill” from taking pictures as he could “get away with it”

He started off just taking pictures of attractive women he saw in the street but then started doing it to anyone, he said.

A disciplinary panel dismissed him from the force in January.

Pre-sentence reports found Harris was highly manipulative, able to groom those around him, had a considerably high risk of re-offending and no motivation to reform.

He was made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years, a restraining order was put in place and the images and electronic devices were ordered to be destroyed.